Yowamushi Pedal follows a scrawny little otaku named Onoda Sakamichi who just entered Sohoku High School. He is excited to join his school's anime club, but is shocked to learn that it was disbanded due to lack of members. So Onoda desperately tries to recruit people to re-open the club, but no one wants to join him. One day while riding up a steep hill that leads into the school that normally only the members of the school's cycling club take due to its extreme incline, Onoda is spotted by another freshman named Imaizumi Shunsuke. Imaizumi is befuddled by Onoda being able to ride the hill on a basic "mommy bike" and decides to challenge Onoda to a bike race with the condition that if Onoda wins Imaizumi will join Onoda's anime club despite not being an anime fan.
Unfortunately for Onoda, he barely loses, so Imaizumi doesn't join his club, but the two do start a friendship and the captain of the cycling team gains an interest in having Onoda on the team. After some convincing by Imaizumi and another freshman cycling friend of Onoda's named Naruko Shoukichi, Onoda joins Sohoku's cycling team and makes it his goal to race in the summer Inter-High race with Imaizumi and Naruko. Is Yowamushi Pedal surprisingly ahead of the curve, or is it a bike without a chain?
I'll admit that I am in no way, shape, or form a major fan of cycling. I mean I like casually riding a bike, but watching a cycle race is one of the most boring sporting events to me. Yowamushi Pedal completely flips that around for me. The entire time during each of the races in this show I was huddled on the edge of my seat in a big ball of tension as my eyes remained glued to the screen as I watched the action play out in front of me. This is greatly aided by the amazing music in this series. From the opening theme songs to the background soundtrack, the music in this show would constantly hype me up. To top it all off, there are times where this show is genuinely emotional. I can't believed I got punched in the feels by a sports anime, but well, there you have it.
Whoever planned where each episode ended in relation to the source material was a freaking genius. An evil genius, but a genius nevertheless. I say this because nearly every episode of Yowamushi Pedal ends on a cliffhanger, and it always happens at the peak of excitement. This made me immediately want to watch the next episode. This was rather painful watching each week because I knew I had to wait another week for my next dose of Yowamushi Pedal. Needless to say I think this makes the show really easy to marathon.
To me the sport in a sports anime is actually one of the least important things. A sports anime needs a great cast of memorable characters for it to really shine. For example, I don't care about volleyball, but I am loving Haikyuu!!, or I only have a marginal interest in baseball, but I am addicted to Ace of the Diamond. Thankfully the same applies to Yowamushi Pedal, which is filled with memorable, and slightly unhinged (Or fully unhinged in the case of one character that I'll get to later) characters. However probably the best pair of characters in the show are.....
Andy and Frank are the names for the pectoral muscles of one of the ace sprinters for Sohoku's rival school Hakone Academy named Izumida Touichirou. For the record Andy is his right pectoral and Frank is his left pectoral. And to make things better, they are seemingly sentient beings, as they'll individually twitch as early warning signs for Izumida.
Several of the characters in this show, particularly those on Sohoku's and Hakone's teams have strong bromances. At first it began by just showing us the budding bromance betwen Onoda, Naruko, and Imaizumi. But then it began to spread by showing us how close the broship between the other Sohoku riders are, then we got some bromances between Sohoku riders and Hakone riders, and then lastly some bromances between the Hakone riders. Point is, the broships are strong in this series and it is kind of easy to see why this show has taken off so strongly amongst female anime fans in Japan, there is admittedly a lot of potential shipping material here.
After the end credits of every episode there is a brief stinger skit. The majority of them are comedy gold and give us great additional details to the characters in the show as we get to see some more candid depictions of the characters. In addition to the stingers there are some rather funny end cards at the ends of many of the episodes.
Onoda's favorite anime of all time is a magical girl show called Love Hime that is an anime within an anime. He loves it so much he knows the entire opening theme by heart. This song also serves as a kind of power up for Onoda because whenever he gets into a pinch in a race, he likes to sing the song aloud and then he starts kicking ass. Admittedly, the song is rather catchy. Here, listen to it for yourself:
For the most part, Yowamushi Pedal does stay relatively grounded in realism. However it does still pull out a few reality stretching abilities for some of the riders. It never fully breaks the immersion, but it did on occasion make me go, "Wait, really guys?". That being said, even many of the questionable thing still seem like they are just exaggerations of realistic things.
Take a good look at that picture above. That is probably the least creepy Midousuji gets in this series. He is the ace and leader for Kyoto Fushimi, the third primary school in this series so far. He also serves as an antagonist, in reality the only actual antagonist in this series to date. And he gives me the heebie jeebies. He has extremely discomforting expressions, mannerisms, and features and he literally has his own creepy ass background music. To top it off he is sadistic as all hell. One time when he was racing Imaizumi in middle school he told Imaizumi his mother died simply so he could gain a psychological advantage over Imaizumi. So why is he simply under "Not Bad"? Because he's just so damn great to cheer against. He's the only antagonist in the series and he serves that role perfectly. I couldn't cheer against the Hakone guys because I grew to like them. But Midousuji? Nothing prevents me from backing whoever is taking him on.
I know full well that I praised the show earlier for being a master of the cliffhanger, and well it still is. The problem is that it is too damn good at cliffhangers. You see, even the final episode of this season ends on a cliffhanger. So there will be no resolution to this season's main arc until the second season starts in October. You think it was bad waiting a week for a new episode? Try having to now wait three months for the conclusion to air. It is going to be a very rough wait for me.
Cliffhanger ending to this season be damned, Yowamushi Pedal has still been one of the most exciting rides I have ever experienced with anime. I went into the show with extremely low expectations thinking, "A cycling anime? Really, guys?", but was instantly blown away from the beginning and can quite honestly say it is easily one of my favorite anime series around, certainly one of the most purely entertaining ones. And the best part is it isn't even over yet. I greatly anticipate the second half to this series and I highly recommend this show to anyone who likes fun, tense action.